5. Sustainable agriculture intensive feed garden.
Sustainable Agriculture, 3, No. 1, 1991, 14-16
The concept of an Intensive Feed Garden (IFG) was adapted and tested in the Philippines by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), based on a design originally developed by the International Livestock Centre for Africa in Ethiopia. IFG aims at maximizing the cultivation of fodder production per hectare through intensive cultivation of leguminous trees/shrubs and grasses on a small area (10m x 20m). This technology is recommended for marginal lands, areas where land is scarce, areas where it is compulsory to confine livestock and is most appropriate for areas where feed is not readily available for a cut-and-carry system.
An IFG provides renewable sources of nutritious and palatable fodder, fuel and green manure; curbs soil erosion, conserves soil moisture and increases soil fertility; increases the productivity of a given piece of land by interplanting diverse species of fodder trees, shrubs and grasses; provides a stable agricultural system for the semi-arid tropics; and reduces the danger of toxicity problems from noxious weeds and contaminated poisonous fodder.
An intensive fodder garden is usually established on a small piece of land (10m x 20m). Larger plots may, however, be used, depending on the number of animals to be maintained. One of the recommended designs of an IFG (yield: 20 tons dry matter/ha) incorporates legume trees, shrubs and grasses. A spacing of four meters between rows of trees is maintained.
The space between trees in the row is one meter. The grasses are spaced 75 cm, between rows and 30-40 cm between hills. While grasses and leguminous shrubs/vines are mature for cutting in six to eight weeks, they should be cut on a 10-12 week cycle for optimum productivity. More frequent cutting will reduce total productivity.
The land should be cleared of all weeds before land preparation and planting. Since forage grass (i.e., Panicum) seeds are small, they require a fine seedbed. If vegetative planting materials are used, a rough seedbed is tolerated. Flamengia, Rensonni and Gliricidia can be planted either on a flat or ridged land and must be planted ahead of the forage grass to minimize shading for the first six weeks. Forage trees may be planted by direct seeding or by nursery seedlings. Direct seeding is easier, cheaper and feasible in areas where annual rainfall is 1,200 mm or more with a minimum growing season of about 200 days. Planting of seedlings is recommended at the start of the rainy seasons. If irrigation is available, planting can be done anytime of the year. The ideal depth of planting should be about 2.0 cm, with two to three seeds per hill.
The following fodder trees, grasses and legumes are recommended:
- Fodder trees: Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala, Cajanus cajan, Sesbania grandiflora.
- Grasses: Pennisetum purpureum, Panicum maximum, Brachiaria mutica, Cynodon plectostachyus, Digitaria decumbens, Pennisetum clandistinum, Dicanthium aristatum, Bracharia decumbens, Chloris gayana.
On fertile land, fertilizer may not be necessary; however, on moderate to low fertility soils, decomposed animal manure could be incorporated in the soil at least two weeks before planting. If manure is not available, a side dressing of 15-15-15 fertilizer (in the initial year of establishment only) at about 150 kg per hectare (four to six weeks after planting) can boost the initial growth of tree seedlings and forage grasses. After one to one-and-a half year of establishment, the fertilizer requirements of the grasses can be met by returning 50 to 70 percent of the cut leaves from the tree species back to the soil in the form of mulch. All the grasses and one-half to one-third of the tree leaves can then be used as animal feed.
In the first year, IFG production in a plot measuring 200 square meters would be sufficient to supply 25 percent of the daily intake of 3.6 small ruminants (goats or sheep). Foliage yields in the first year range from 9 to 20 tons/ha dry matter. Increased yields can be expected during subsequent years. To maintain a cattle fattener, there is a need to develop 400 meters of intensive feed garden area.
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Africa, Latin America, study, cowpea, leafy vegetable, grain legume, post harvest, quality loss, handling, storage
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